Tougher controls loom

By Robin Stride

A Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) bid to improve private practice safety following the Paterson case has sparked patients’ calls for the launch of a whistle-blowing system.

College proposals mean independent consultants face tougher clinical governance to cover monitoring of practising privileges and scope of their practice.

Better sharing of consultant performance information between the NHS and private sectors is also being urged. 

But the Private Patients Forum (PPF) claimed a new early warning system for patients and doctors was urgently needed, with the latter possibly using confidential whistle-blowing to share concerns with all providers. 

It said: ‘This would mean a more effective and urgent use of quality, safety and complaints information than is currently the case and would require a whole-system approach.’ 

Prof Derek Alderson

College president Prof Derek Alderson said the entire healthcare sector needed to do more to prevent rogue doctors from ever causing harm again. 

‘This starts with being able to collect and analyse good-quality patient safety and outcomes data. There must be stronger oversight and protection for patients, regardless of whether they have their operation in an NHS hospital or in the independent sector.’

The independent sector must report data around unexpected deaths, never events and serious injuries to the Care Quality Com­mission. The RCS wants this published in future.

It said the private sector did not yet have a data set equivalent to Hospital Episode Statistics – which publishes how many and what procedures have happened in the NHS – although talks between the Private Healthcare Information Net­work (PHIN) and NHS Digital aim for independent sector data to be included. 

The RCS added that the independent sector had not been enabled to contribute to most national clinical audits that collect data on care outcomes.

It has been working with the Health­­care Quality Improvement Part­nership (HQIP) and the Ind­ependent Healthcare Provider Network (IHPN) to review which existing national clinical audits the independent sector can contribute to and what barriers need overcoming.

IHPN boss David Hare said: ‘We have successfully lobbied to ensure that independent sector providers are permitted to submit more data to key national safety systems and participate in more clinical audits and, as the RCS report makes clear, there is real momentum behind this work. 

‘However, further work is needed to allow the sector to participate in the full range of NHS datasets and clinical audits and it is now vital that all those involved in better aligning NHS and independent sector data maintain the momentum.’